Bearers of Hope

“2020 was a tough year but I am still grateful for its gifts. 2021 will be a better year.

In my Saturday column, I quoted Pope Francis saying that thanksgiving was a hallmark of an authentic Christian life: “Above all, let us not forget to thank: If we are bearers of gratitude, the world itself will become better, even if only a little bit, but that is enough to transmit a bit of hope. The world needs hope. And with gratitude, with this habit of saying thank you, we transmit a bit of hope. Everything is united and everything is connected, and everyone needs to do his or her part wherever we are.”

The Pope also observed: “Christians, as all believers, bless God for the gift of life. To live is above all to have received. All of us are born because someone wanted us to have life. And this is only the first of a long series of debts that we incur by living. Debts of gratitude.”

For me, in a year when despair seemed to be the more obvious option, I found hope in the courage and commitment of several individuals and groups that I have engaged with. As I did in my previous column, I convey my thanks to the following:

To indigenous peoples—Aetas, Lumad, Dumagat, Igorots, etc. who have trusted me and my team to represent or help them in important issues such as the anti-terror law, displacement from ancestral domains in the Clark and Kaliwa Dam projects, and in helping Lumad schools;

A special shout out to Lumad educators Meggie Nolasco, Pia Garduce, Rose Hayahay, and others—seeing how committed they are and the love between them and their students has convinced me how important their work is not only for the Lumad but for Mindanao and the country and makes me commit to do everything to help them stand up again;

To student and youth activists of Kabataan Party List, National Union of Students in the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, and Anakbayan—as the hope of this country, I will always support you and not second-guess your political strategies;

To my students all over the Philippines in the undergraduate, JD (law), LLM, JSD, MPM, and JSD/PHD classes that I teach, including those I mentor in their thesis and dissertation work, thank you allowing me to teach you;

A special thank you to one of my moral philosophy students—Bernadine De Belen (disclosure: I had her permission to disclose her name and share this anecdote)—as it is students like her that make teaching so rewarding as exemplified by her oral exam, one of the best I have ever conducted since I started teaching philosophy 40 years ago in the way she weaved the story of her family (as granddaughter of Joe and Edita Burgos, and niece of Jonas, abducted and still missing) and our national history from the Marcos to the Duterte eras with her own personal ethical choices (as illumined by the philosophers I taught her class) as an activist and writer;

To all my fellow teachers, at all levels, for confronting the challenges of teaching in this pandemic, for not giving up on our students and making sure no one is left behind;To all the university presidents, law and undergraduate deans, and department chairs that have allowed me to scale up my teaching which is the most important thing I do—thank you for your continuing trust and do forgive me for some of my administrative failures;

To Terri Jayme Mora and Abi Mapua, outgoing and incoming representatives of Ashoka Philippines, and to our Board Chair Rico Gonzalez and other Ashoka colleagues, including our 12 Ashoka Fellows—for the incredible innovativeand change maing work all of you and other social entrepreneurs are doing to make this country better;

To my colleagues in the environmental and climate justice movement, here and abroad, and especially in the organizations I am/have been affiliated with—the Manila Observatory, the Forest Foundation, Center for International Environmental Law, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, and Samdhana among others—for the collaboration and our shared mission which is now so critical;

To my journalist friends, especially in Rappler, Manila Standard, MindaNews, and ABS-CBN, thank you for being bearers of truth;

To our faith communities—the Jesuit Volunteers and the Neocatechumenal community of Mary the Queen—for helping me and Titay walk in faith and hope through liturgical and community celebrations;

And, finally, to loved ones who passed to eternal life, for my mother Inday La Viña and my aunt Fely Abaya especially as you are now interceding for us in heaven.

2020 was a tough year but I am still grateful for its gifts. 2021 will be a better year. That is God’s promise to us; it is a promise we must make to each other. Bearers of gratitude, truth, and hope is what we must be in this new year.

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